17-year-old cancer survivor gets invite from Weir
Jackie Viglasky, left, is pictured with Mike Weir at the Augusta National Golf Course for Wednesday's Masters Par 3 competition. The 17-year-old cancer survivor was asked by Weir to serve as his caddy for the event. SUBMITTED PHOTO
Last year at this time Sarnia teen Jackie Viglasky was fighting for her life.
What a difference a year makes.
The 17-year-old cancer survivor found herself caddying for Sarnia’s Mike Weir Wednesday at the Masters Par Three competition, with this year marking the 10th anniversary of Weir’s historic Masters victory.
Viglasky was asked by Weir to serve as her caddy for the Wednesday event, after spending nearly a year battling a rare form of cancer.
Her father Jim is a lifelong friend of the Weir family.
Jackie was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma about 18 months ago and spent the better part of a year undergoing aggressive treatments.
Ewing’s Sarcoma is a rare disease in which cancer cells are found in the bone or in soft tissue. It occurs most frequently in teenagers and young adults.
She spent 10 months undergoing treatment, her cancer now in in remission.
"Words cannot describe this day, it was so surreal and I will never forget the experience that I had with Mike being alongside an amazing person and a hero and inspiration to many aspiring young golfers," she said, after coming off the course and sharing some special time with her family and friends at one of golf's most prestigious courses.
Despite limited golf knowledge, the Northern high school student said she did try to provide some help on the links.
"I helped him read a putt but he missed so (after that) I just stuck to cleaning his clubs and taking in the experience," she said.
She had the opportunity to hobnob with some of golf's big guns, including Weir, Steve Stricker and Matt Kuchar. Vigalsky said she also got to meet former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
"This invitation was very special and I was very honoured," Viglasky said. "I will take a couple things away from this experience, Mike is truly a wonderful and caring person and Canada is lucky to have him.
She said she looks to the future, opting not to focus on the past. She said there are a lot of inspirational stories that people can draw from, including their own inner strength and the support of loved ones.
"Each person is fighting their own battle and they just need to do what they need to do and then they can accomplish anything they put their mind to."
Her memorable day left her father Jim mostly speechless.
“My daughter’s philosophy is this is not what defines her,” he said of Jackie’s cancer battle.
“It’s still hard to believe that all this happened … Jackie is such a strong person though,” Dad said.
Although Jackie has been to several of Weir’s golf events, she isn’t much of a golfer herself, her father said with a chuckle.
The young girl’s bravery and determination throughout the ordeal has inspired a lot of people, said family friend Rob Ravensberg.
“She is an amazing kid, that’s for sure … Throughout this battle Jackie was fearless and always found a way to share a smile whenever we saw her.
“She is as brave a person as I’ve ever met in my life,” Ravensberg said.
Ravensberg called Weir one of the nicest people he’s ever had the pleasure to meet.
“With Mike being aware of the situation and that Jackie had fought her way through the toughest fight that any one could endure he sent her the e-mail … For anyone that does not know this already, Mike Weir is a class act and has represented Sarnia as a City and Canada as a nation in such a way that we all should be proud.”